Poor circulation to the legs and feet can develop from unhealthy lifestyle habits, vascular disease or traumatic injury. Medications, lifestyle changes and surgery are remedies used to improve blood flow in the legs and feet. Severe cases of poor circulation may or may not be amenable to surgical intervention. Narrow, blocked or damaged blood vessels are the causes of poor circulation of blood in the legs and feet.
Exercise improves blood flood to all parts of the body. Poor circulation in the legs and feet causes symptoms of pain, heaviness in the lower extremities and cramping. Discomfort associated with walking or other exercise usually subsides with rest. Alternating periods of exercise and rest can help improve circulation over time. Exercise programs should be guided by a physician.
Tobacco constricts the blood vessels. Avoidance of tobacco is important to maintain healthy circulation to all of the organs and tissues in the body. Second-hand smoke can also have a negative impact on blood vessel health. Avoidance of tobacco smoke can improve circulation in the legs and feet and aid in prevention of peripheral artery disease.
Poor circulation from narrow blood vessels becomes worse when cold constricts the vessels even further. Staying warm with a blanket and socks can improve blood flow to the legs and feet. Warmth causes vasodilation that helps improve blood circulation and can also relieve symptoms of cramping that can occur from lack of oxygen carried in the bloodstream to the tissues.
Pletal is a medication that can prevent blood cells from “clumping” together. It also dilates the blood vessels and is available with a prescription from a physician. If a blood clot is blocking circulation to the lower legs or feet, a physician might order a blood thinner such as warfarin to help dissolve the clot.
Surgical intervention can provide more blood flow to the legs and feet for patients with arterial disease, known as peripheral artery disease or PAD. Surgery might include inserting a small metal device called a stent that expands an artery that is blocked by plaque, a fatty substance in the blood. Angioplasty involves insertion of a deflated balloon through the artery in the leg. When the balloon reaches the blocked area, it is inflated to press plaque against the wall of the artery. A “bypass” is performed with the use of a synthetic material or a healthy vein harvested from the patient. The bypass material or vein is attached above and below the blockage, bypassing the diseased area to restore leg circulation.